Jodie Foster blew away the box office competition with her vigilante thriller "The Brave One," but the poorly reviewed film's performance paled against her recent efforts.
According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, the "Death Wish"-style movie sold about $14 million worth of tickets across the United States and Canada during its first three days of release.
Among her recent headlining releases, "Flightplan" opened to $25 million in 2005, while "The Panic Room" debuted with a career-best $30 million in 2002.
Foster was not the only Oscar laureate to underwhelm moviegoers. Billy Bob Thornton opened at No. 3 with the comedy "Mr. Woodcock," another film rooted in revenge.
Garnering even worse reviews than "The Brave One," it earned $9.1 million.
"The Brave One" was released by Warner Bros. Pictures, and "Mr. Woodcock" by New Line Cinema. In a climate of diminished expectations, the studios, owned by Time Warner , said they were satisfied with their respective films.
Hollywood studios take advantage of the traditional post-summer lull in September to dump unheralded product on the market so that they can then focus on their year-end Oscar hopefuls.
Last weekend's champion, the Western remake "3:10 to Yuma," slipped to No. 2 with $9.2 million. After 10 days, the Russell Crowe-Christian Bale vehicle has earned a modest $28.6 million, having cost about $55 million to make. It was distributed by Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment. Rankings could change when final data are issued on Monday.
The top 10 contained one other new release, the South Korean monster movie "Dragon Wars," which failed to scare up business with a $5.4 million opening at No. 4.
"The Brave One" stars Foster as a New York radio journalist who is seriously beaten in Central Park, and decides to clean up the city one thug at a time. Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan directed, and Terrence Howard plays a cop on her trail. The Baltimore Sun described it a a "pretentious payback fantasy."
As is usually the case with Foster movies, women made up the majority of the audience (55 percent). Almost three-quarters were aged over 30, and 80 percent of viewers termed the film "excellent" or "very good," the studio said.
Foster, 44, who averages a headlining role in a major studio release about once every two years, won Oscars for "The Accused" and "The Silence of the Lambs."
"Mr. Woodcock," in which Thornton plays a sadistic gym coach engaged to marry the mother (Susan Sarandon) of one of his former victims (Seann William Scott), was originally shot by Australian filmmaker Craig Gillespie more than two years ago. The release was delayed by reshoots, and then a decision to hold it back for Thornton's New Line film "The Astronaut Farmer," which opened to $4.5 million in February.
Critics almost unanimously ripped "Woodcock," with the nation's best-known reviewer, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, one of the rare exceptions, according to the Rotten Tomatoes movie site.
It becomes the third consecutive box office disappointment for New Line, following "Rush Hour 3" and "Shoot 'Em Up."
Among other recent Thornton releases, "School for Scoundrels" opened to $8.6 million last year, "The Bad News Bears" $11.5 million in 2005, and "Friday Night Lights" $20 million in 2004. Thornton won an Oscar for writing "Sling Blade," while Sarandon was honored for "Dead Man Walking."
The Top Weekend Films at the North American Box Office
Following are the top 10 films at the North American box office for the weekend beginning Sept. 14, led by the new release "The Brave One," according to estimates compiled on Sunday by Reuters. Final data will be issued on Monday.
1. The Brave One
2. 3:10 to Yuma
3. Mr. Woodcock
4. Dragon Wars
7. The Bourne Ultimatum
8. Balls of Fury
8. Rush Hour 3
10. Mr. Bean's Holiday